Paul’s directives for Christian living seem challenging at best and perhaps even impossible to fulfill. For Paul, love is the foundation of the Christian life, and all his admonitions emanate from a call for genuine love. But here he is not simply talking about the emotion expressed between individuals. He directs his instructions to the community with the hope that his entire list of strictures will build up the community by making clear the meaning of genuine love, the one essential of Christianity.
Paul’s words speak directly to John Wesley’s requirement of holy living for the people called Methodists. Wesley called on Methodists to demonstrate the love of God and neighbor by living a holy life both individually and in community as a testimony to their Christian identity. For the individual Christian, Wesley’s “The Scripture Way of Salvation” begins with repentance and new birth and leads from justification through sanctification to Christian perfection. From the community, Wesley required social holiness that actively responded to the needs of the saints with peace and harmony within and beyond the community.
In this post-Christian era, the church, known more for its divisiveness than its love and so often remaining silent in the face of injustice, encounters a challenge. Paul’s words remind us that we are called as Christians to be the people of God who show genuine love through holy living and who live in peace and harmony as the beloved community. Only God’s presence and grace make living the Christian life possible. God’s grace alone enables us to live holy lives, individually and corporately. May we live in the light of God’s empowering presence.

Gracious God, empower us by your Spirit to be guided by love in all things. Grant us your presence and your grace so that we can become the beloved community. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Matthew 16:21-28

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Lectionary Week
August 28–September 3, 2017
Scripture Overview

In Exodus 3, Moses is moved to inspect the bush because it is an oddity, and in so doing he encounters the presence of the living God. Not even Moses could be prepared for the challenge that ensues. Psalm 105 recites God’s great acts of mercy in Israel’s life; in this instance, focusing on Moses and Aaron. The key verb here is “sent,” and its subject is God. In Romans 12, Paul takes the notion of covenant demand and expounds on it. Christians are called not simply to keep rules; they are transformed and readied for new life in the world. Paul provides an inventory of new life for those who are changed and renewed by the gospel. The Gospel reading is one of Jesus’ most acute reflections on the obedience expected of the faithful. He announces his own destiny of suffering obedience and invites his disciples to share in that radical destiny. For the faithful, there is no “business as usual”; it’s a divine call that brings challenge.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

• Read Exodus 3:1-15. Have you experienced God’s call to something you felt ill-equipped for? What did you say to God? to yourself?
• Read Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c. How difficult is it for you to praise God in the midst of turmoil? Why?
• Read Romans 12:9-21. Where in your life do you have opportunities to bless those who curse you?
• Read Matthew 16:21-28. What does your call to discipleship in Christ cost you?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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